Despite the concern raised by retailers last year about the impact of Black Friday on the Christmas trading period, it is once again being embraced as an opportunity to uplift sales this year. As more and more retailers follow the new tradition of offering attractive flash sales, researcher Springboard is expecting footfall to surge by +11.5% year-on-year in retail destinations across the UK on the day. Retail parks are forecast to see the biggest boost of +17% year-on-year, continuing the trend of a strong year to date. Following a difficult year on the high street and fluctuating period for shopping centres, welcome uplifts in footfall are expected with footfall anticipated to rise +9% and +12% year-on-year respectively.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, says: “Despite the uplift that the new 'tradition' in our trading calendar brings for retailers, there is limited evidence of the benefit for retailers over the Christmas period as a whole. Indeed, what we have already identified is that a key issue - and one that retailers should not lose sight of - is the likely hit on footfall in retail destinations and therefore on bricks-and-mortar stores that Black Friday weekend will cause on the following weeks.”

Black Friday is changing the shape of the Christmas trading period. The trend that footfall and sales start to steadily increase during late November with a 'super peak' in the last few days before Christmas has now formed into a wave. This starts with uplift in footfall on Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday, then a trough with no major increase from week to week throughout December, rising to a final peak over the last week before Christmas. As part of this change, Boxing Day is becoming a less important trading day in the same way that New Year’s Day did years ago.

In the week after Black Friday weekend last year, Springboard figures show that despite a +10.6% increase in high street footfall from the week before, footfall dropped by -3.3% from the same week in 2013. The aftermath over the following week was almost as great, with an overall drop across all retail destinations from the same week in 2013 of -2.2% and of -3.6% in the high street.

Even possibly of more significance, is the impact felt beyond Black Friday weekend over the weeks up until Christmas itself. Footfall over the weeks following Black Friday weekend up to the Christmas week last year was -1.3% lower than in 2013, with the expected surge in customer activity only commencing the week before Christmas, far later than retailers have come to expect. However, with Christmas Day falling on a Friday this year, the final peak is expected to be more powerful thanks to the four full trading days before. On Boxing Day, a day that has long been regarded by shoppers as a key opportunity to grab bargains, footfall dropped by -8.8% overall in 2014 and by -12.6% on the high street compared with a drop in 2013 of -0.8% overall and -3.8% in the high street.

Diane continues: “For retailers of course, with their propositions now becoming increasingly seamlessly omni-channel, with little distinction being made between online sales versus sales made in bricks-and-mortar stores, Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer unique opportunities. However, we have seen unanticipated demand from pure-play retailers for a high street presence indicating its ongoing importance, reflecting the fact that 88% of retail spend is still made in retail destinations. So, with this and with onerous occupation costs being a given, turning a blind eye to the impact of Black Friday on traditional shopping destinations could mean that a heavy price is paid.”

Anticipating the effect of Black Friday Weekend online, Jamie Turner, co-founder of PCA Predict, says: “With a month to go, Black Friday is a date savvy shoppers await with bated breath as discounts descend on shoppers and continue on Cyber Monday. After experiencing the overwhelming appetite from consumers last year, we expect even more retailers to join in this year and could see activity double the levels we saw in 2014. Payday for most lands on the last working day of the month, which is in fact Cyber Monday this year, while last year it coincided with Black Friday. This could mean that consumers wait to have their funds infused first to take full advantage of the deals on offer. If this does happen, we predict sales will peak at 11am on Cyber Monday.

"Over the last 12 months, smartphones have adapted to have better screens which are larger and have higher resolution. Retailers have also recently attributed successful sales figures to the growth of mobile transactions so we could see the proportion of mobile phone activity increase by at least 12%. This would eat into tablet traffic, while the proportion of desktop usage falls by 10%, and mean that almost one in three shoppers use their mobile phone to make online purchases and enjoy the sales whilst on the go.”